Usually around this time of the year, in those lazy days between Christmas and New Year, I set myself the task of looking back at the photographs I got in the past 12 months and try to choose my 12 favourite photos from the year that is coming to an end. It is an enjoyable exercise to relive moments captured during the year. In pre-Covid times, looking back through photos I would get to revisit the places I had visited in that year.
2021 was different. It was the first year since I was 18 that I did not get to travel outside of Ireland; first year not to go through passport control and board a plane and fly off to somewhere new. So looking back at the photos I made in 2021, the first thing I notice is that I did not shoot anything near the same amount as years gone by, and the second thing is that most of photos were shot here in Cork and a theme of emerging from shadows appears.
Most of the photographs I shot were of family, which makes the first choice of a photograph of my son, James, an easy one to choose.
With lockdowns and 5km restrictions, we went on the same route for walks most days. Quite close to our home is Munster Technological University and the deserted campus is a great place for a walk. Taken on January 1st of this year, the late evening light shining through the arched perspex glass of the bike shelter created a lovely silhouette and reflections of James.
One of the main questions people ask about street photography is about permission. The facts are that when you are in public place the right to privacy does not exist, but for me I work by this rule. If I was in this situation, would I be comfortable if someone took a shot of me. This image here in Cork was one which I was not sure either to shoot in the first instance or subsequently share. In the end I did and the reason being is that I feel it captured a sense of the times we are all living through with Covid.
In July, I was able to get back to in-person mobile photography workshops with the Glucksman Gallery in Cork and on a sunny Saturday morning we hit the streets of Cork to put what we were learning into practice. I came across this scene just off St. Partick’s street and was struck by the graphic and colour elements of the scene. I know it just needed a human element to enter the frame to bring the scene together. This was one of the photos I exhibited in the Ireland in Frame event of Irish street photographers run by the Irish embassy in Germany.
A little colourful interlude. In August, we went on a family holiday to the north of Ireland and one of the places we visited on the picturesque Antrim coast was Whitehead. The line up of these colourful houses was a scene I could not resist. I parked the car up in front of the houses and used the roof of the car to create the reflections. In Snapseed, I flipped the image and played with the curves to bring out the colours and light from the scene.
Another from that holiday, is this one from the streets of Belfast. I look for strong characters to photograph when on the street and this guy perched on a street bin chatting on the phone and smoking caught my attention. I liked the ad on the bus behind and its message of a better 2021.
Juxtaposition in street photography is fun. So much about this scene called me to stop and create the frame. That bright orange, the name of the store, the guy isolated on his own on the left wearing the mask all tell a story of our 2021.
This shot was taken in late September in Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork as the sun from the west streamed through as it set. I love shooting in harsh sunlight. The reflection works, I think, because of the gesture of the guy’s hand movement to his head and the reflection from the puddle adds a little to it also.
Another of light and shade and lines and movement. The campus of Munster Technological University has this beautiful courtyard and at the right time of day the sun spills in.
Much of the shooting I did centred around times when I ferried the kids to music or drama lessons in Cork’s School of Music. I would use the time to try to get some photographs. I must cut a strange figure bent down with the iPhone in a puddle taking photographs, but sometimes the result is worth it.
Just a few steps beyond the bridge from the last photo I stopped to shoot this reflection of the River Lee looking from Morrison’s Island to South Terrace. I set the shot up and waited for someone to walk in between the two buildings to add that human element to the scene.
Here’s a shot of my daughter, Sumi-Anna, patiently obliging her father as I tried to get the shot.
I chose this image to close the review off. It is a joyous image of my son jumping over a puddle on Christmas Day. I was careful not to crop out his full form in the reflection in the puddle.
While it is hard to be optimistic about what 2022 will bring when we are inundated each day with more and more depressing news about Omicron, we should reflect and realise that we are getting through this and everything passes.
Here’s to a better year!
My next series of online mobile photography workshops with the Gallery of Photography, Dublin starts on Tuesday, February 1st. All details here.